Alexander McQueen's Autumn Winter 2011 finale
Cast your minds back to March last year when Alexander McQueen's Autumn Winter 2011 show closed during Paris Fashion Week amid a cloud of frothy dresses. At the time, we wondered whether it was a coincidence that the collection featured white gowns with full skirts, crystal-embroidered bodices and billowy sleeves of chiffon fit for a royal bride just one month before Kate Middleton was due to wed her prince.
Because you'll remember it was at this very time that Royal Wedding frenzy had reached fever pitch with persistent rumours that Sarah Burton, Creative Director at Alexander McQueen, was secretly working on the Duchess' dress. On April 29th, we found out that indeed she was – but what we didn't know is that the matchy-matchy collection was no coincidence. In fact, Burton planned the all-white finale as a crafty cover-up.
Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge arrive at Buckingham Palace after their wedding
Grazia's Paula Reed has discovered that Burton purposefully featured a bridal-esque section so that there would be a reason to order in exquisite white fabric – and tonnes of it – without raising suspicion at the British fashion house. Isn't that genius? The admission came from Hamish Bowles, US Vogue's Editor-at-Large, who was unveiling the Dress of the Year at the Bath Fashion Museum last week.
'The white and ivory dresses in this collection were created as a cover for The White Dress Project – namely the wedding dress that Sarah Burton created for Catherine Middleton’s marriage to Prince William – the most anticipated, talked about, and ultimately, applauded dress of the year,' he revealed.
And not only did Sarah Burton manage to fool us, she even bluffed ANNA WINTOUR. According to Mr Bowles: ‘Anna looked Sarah in the eye – an experience that would jelly the marrow of bigger people – and asked, "Are you designing Kate Middleton’s dress?" and Sarah said, "I am not designing the dress."' Blimey, what a brave lady! 'So Anna was telling everyone, "Sarah told me she’s not doing the dress, so she’s not doing the dress." Now Anna admits Sarah did an amazing job.'
Indeed she did. Kate Middleton’s wedding dress is almost certainly the best-kept fashion secret, like, EVER, and we know Burton went to great lengths to keep her name, as well as the design, under wraps. Admittedly, Grazia Daily found it hard to believe that as the McQueen seamstresses stitched masses of white gazar, they didn't twig it was for The Dress – and now we know they believed it was all for the Autumn Winter 2011 collection.
Hamish Bowles unveils the Dress of the Year at the Bath Fashion Museum
As for the Dress of the Year that Mr Bowles chose? It's the glorious Ice Queen creation that closed McQueen's Autumn Winter 2011 spectacle [above]. The gown features an ivory tulle bodice fully embroidered with individually crafted 3D organza feathers and a skirt consisting of 31 panels hand embroidered with miniature eagle motifs. Wowee, that's exactly what you need to throw your workers off the scent, no?
As Mr Bowles says: 'Nowhere are Sarah Burton’s unique skills better exemplified than in this magnificent dress that dazzlingly updates the tradition of the robe de bal, looking back to the crinolined Second Empire creations of Charles Frederick Worth and the mid-century masterworks of Christian Dior, but with a cut, technical treatments, and embellishments that are uniquely twenty-first century.'
'It is truly a dress of exquisite beauty,' Bath Fashion Museum Manager, Rosemary Harden, says. 'This is what fashion is all about. All the craftsmanship, expertise and vision coming together in this wonderful dress which is now on show for everyone to see.'
Yes, the jaw-dropping dress, together with a selection of previous winners, is now on display at Bath Fashion Museum – and we say it's well worth the trip.